Kobe Bryant, Courtney Lee, Kyle Lowry

Winderman: Meet the new Kobe, same as the old Kobe

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At the conclusion of Tuesday’s play, only one NBA player was averaging more than 19 shots per game.

That player, in fact, was averaging 22.3, essentially putting him in a league of his own.

Which, of course, is where Kobe Bryant long has considered himself.

The question now is whether 22.3 is too many, whether it fractures the team concept, whether Mike Brown once again is handing over the keys to an offense, just as he did, without ultimate success, to LeBron James with the Cavaliers.

This, of course, is nothing new with Kobe, who finished second, barely, to Monta Ellis in shots per game last season, 20.1 to 20.0, as the only two players in the league to average more than 20 attempts. And two seasons ago, Kobe finished third in the NBA, behind Ellis and Carmelo Anthony.

The point being that triangle or no triangle, Kobe is going to get his shots and get a lot of them.

When Kobe went 6 of 28 in Sunday’s loss to the Nuggets, Brown said he did not have an issue with Bryant’s shot selection. There was no snarky Jackson-esque aide to indicate otherwise.

As the ultimate complementary player, Pau Gasol continues to be along for the ride.

But for Andrew Bynum, the question is whether so much offense going in one direction isn’t undermining his development as arguably the best center in the West.

The irony, of course, is had David Stern had not blocked Chris Paul-to-Lakers, Kobe would not have the ball in his hands as much, would not be able to decide on his own what is and is not a good shot.

But beyond that, the greater issue is when the Lakers are going to begin transition to something beyond all-Kobe all-the-time.

One would have thought that transition would have begun with the move from Jackson to Brown. But with the roster relatively stagnant, save for the loss of Lamar Odom, it appears it will be same as it ever was.
A lot of Kobe. Scraps for everyone else. With Brown’s endorsement.

To a degree, there simply might not be a need for the Lakers to evolve. After a rough start, after getting Bynum back from his season-opening suspension, after a new tape job on Kobe’s wrist, they seem fine.

Kobe certainly is fine. He’s getting his shots. More than he has in years.

But is that in the Lakers’ best interest? Bynum’s best interest? The best interest of a team caught in the middle of a grueling schedule with a lot of games and little time for rest?

At 33, Kobe is making himself more essential to the Lakers than at perhaps any other point in his career.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Watch the 50 best long-distance shots of last season (video)

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There’s something majestic about the ball floating through the air on a long shot headed toward the rim, especially when it splashes through the net.

Enjoy the top 50 of those baskets from last season.

Kevin Durant doesn’t like Durantula nickname either

Golden State Warriors' Kevin Durant (35) poses with an emoji cutout during NBA basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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Kevin Durant is long and thin, a combination that has inspired two great nicknames: “Durantula” and “Slim Reaper.”

Durant has already disavowed “Slim Reaper.”

Now, he’s professing his dislike for “Durantula.”

Henry Wofford of CSN Bay Area:

https://twitter.com/HenryWoffordCSN/status/780502572264075264

I see Durant is embracing his role as villain. This is a terrible opinion.

That leaves just loathsomely boring “KD” as a nickname, which is unjustifiable with such better options on the table. Durant might just have to buck up and accept “Durantula” and “Slim Reaper.” At least neither rolls off the tongue easily enough for people to address him that way in person.

Joakim Noah skips Knicks dinner with West Point cadets due to anti-war stance

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Professional Basketball Player Joakim Noah (C) attends the DKNY Women fashion show during New York Fashion Week: The Shows September 2016 at High Line on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week)
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week
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The Knicks have held training camp at West Point the last few years, and last night, the team dined with Army cadets:

But Joakim Noah didn’t participate.

Noah, via Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“It’s hard for me a little bit – I have a lot of respect for the kids here fighting — but it’s hard for me to understand why we go to war and why kids have to kill kids all around the world,’’ Noah said. “I have mixed feeling about being here. I’m very proud of this country. I love America. I don’t understand kids killing kids around the world.’’

Noah received permission from Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek to skip the team function. He was the only member of the team not in attendance. Noah said his decision to skip the dinner and speech was not intended as a form of protest.

“It’s not my way of saying anything – I was not comfortable,’’ Noah said.

Noah has dual citizenship in the United States and France, the home of his father, Yannick Noah, the former tennis star. Noah admitted he’s “not very patriotic,’’ believing people should respect people more than “flags.’’

Noah’s view will be unpopular, but he has every right to hold it. There’s a growing current of people asking for more athlete activism, but people better realize: You might not always like the stance players take. For those who claim to value politically minded players, this is part of what you get.

Personally, I disagree with Noah. The Revolutionary War helped him secure the right to speak out on this. World War II kept his beloved France from being run by a tyrannical Nazi regime. Just because some wars are unjust doesn’t make all wars unjust. I also believe in honoring American soldiers who put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms.

But I also respect Noah’s right to seek a comfortable situation for himself. Some people can be anti-war and easily separate the soldiers as individuals. For others, apparently including Noah, all war machinery is intertwined.

Keep in mind, Noah didn’t actively disparage any soldiers. He’s not seeking supporters for a cause. He just chose not participate in an event he never asked to be apart of.

LeBron James on Cavaliers negotiations: ‘I just hate to deal with this s— again,’ J.R. Smith ‘did his part’

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 22:  Kyrie Irving #2, LeBron James #23 and J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers look on during the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA Championship victory parade and rally on June 22, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
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LeBron James has implicitly loomed over contract negotiations between the Cavaliers and J.R. Smith. LeBron shares an agent – Rich Paul, whose clientele (including Tristan Thompson) LeBron considers to be family – with Smith.

Now, LeBron is getting more explicit.

Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports:

LeBron has frequently praised Smith, including this offseason. If the Cavs haven’t gotten the message by now, it ought to be clear: LeBron values Smith and winning and believes the former will help the latter.

This doesn’t mean LeBron will leave in free agency in 2018, but with a rumor that LeBron believes delivering a title to Cleveland frees him to bolt if he so chooses, do the Cavaliers really want to test him? Do they really want to restrain a team capable of defending its championship?

I respect the Cavs’ desire to sign Smith to a sensible contract, and LeBron is well within his rights to advocate for a fellow player (and himself getting a better supporting cast). These negotiations are all about leverage – and LeBron is using his.